Going Underground

By Stephen Ewashkiw | May 5, 2013

1380 km so far.

Cave Life

We are camping outside Postojna for two nights, which means we don’t have break camp this morning, and it means we get to ride our bikes without all our panniers today. This makes everything a bit easier.

To make things harder, the forest our campground is in is snowing pollen. It is everywhere, and is falling down on us and covering everything, including the iPad screen as I write this.

Spring is in the air. So is pollen.

Spring is in the air. So is pollen.

My eyes, my sinuses, and Jane (because it is making me crabby) are not happy about it.

Castle In Front Of A Cave

Predjama Castle literally means castle in front of a cave, and it is just that.

postonja castle slovenia

Castle in front.

It was originally built in the 13th century but over the first 200 years of its life it was destroyed several times. It was rebuilt, added to, and expanded, and now includes a jousting field where annual renaissance fair type jousting tournaments are held. The photos of that made it look like a fun event to attend.

Despite several “You MUST see the castle!” comments from friends and strangers, we both found the interior quite bland. The highlights were mannequins dressed in pretty lame period costumes, many rooms left with nothing in them whatsoever, and a pamphlet telling us what the various numbers on the map meant. This included helpful information like “stairs”, “part of castle inside cave”, and “dining hall” (clearly decorated as a dining hall).

view from postonja castle

View from the castle.

The castle itself is quite impressive from the outside. We both liked the story of the spoiled little rich kid (they call him a robber baron, but his noble parentage makes him sound more like a trustafarian) who lived in the castle for more than a year before he literally had the shit kicked out of him by a canonball (again, look it up). These made the trip interesting.

Worth the price of admission though? Not if you have been to other castles. Go have a look, post a photo on Instagram (there’s free WiFi at the castle), and then make your way to the Postonja Caves.


Just as a light rain was starting, we got back on our bikes and headed to do the only other thing you are supposed to do in this part of Slovenia: see the caves! The cave is Postonjska Jama. This, the single most expensive touristy thing we have done since leaving on the trip, was actually worth the price of admission.

A Disney-esque train ride took us into and out of the cave, making the whole experience more surreal than it should be. There is even a spot on the ride where they take your picture, which you can buy after the tour, just like at Disneyland.

crowds of tourist at postonja caves slovenia

Queueing to get in to Postonja Caves.

This frivolity initially distracted us from the majesty of the caves. It is hard, considering the circumstances, not to get confused and think you are actually in Disneyland, looking at cleverly painted styrofoam.

Walking through the cave itself however, is spectacular. Words cannot explain the beauty, size, and overwhelming sense of awe the cave inspires.

The tour only took us through a small portion of the cave, because you can’t move thousands of people through it if you’re all underwater spelunking, or crawling through minuscule openings en masse. We don’t have any pictures because we were not allowed to take pictures inside. There are several signs, and our tour guide asked us many times, however this didn’t stop most of the people in our group from snapping (and flashing) away. Being good Canadians, we just made snarky comments under our breath and laughed about the terrible blurry pictures everyone was getting.

The cave is filled with stalagmites and stalactites, some of which, the guide explained, were possibly millions of years old. Some were at least forty meters tall and they grow only one millimetre every ten to thirty years!

Apart from the cave itself, there is one other highlight. The Human Fish is a pigment-free salamander that lives in the underground river that runs below the section of the cave we were in. It is unique to this area, and can live to be more than 100 years old. No one knows how it reproduces. Sadly, they have several in an aquarium for visitors to see, although they assured us they only keep them in there for two months at a time before they let them go, and catch more.

Back To Our Own Cave

It is cold and raining, so we cooked dinner in the washing-up area. Fortunately, no camp employee came to tell us off, because our other choices were to cook in the rain, or eat at the camp restaurant, which only seems to sell schnitzel. Do German tourists really want to eat schnitzel while on holiday?

We are now holed up in our very own cave, our Big Agnes tent. The repair work we had done in Zadar and the Sugru I used to repair the burn holes seem to be holding up. A few insects have crawled between the tent and the fly, and seem snuggled in for the night. I am glad we could provide them shelter for the night from the storm of falling pollen and rain.  

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